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Museums, macaroons and more: There's something about Paris

By KATIE QUINN | April 24, 2014

The first time I visited Paris, my aunt told me that there is something about the color of of the Paris sky at dusk that attracts writers, painters, and all manner of artists to make it their home. Paris was the first European city I visited, and I didn’t think much of my aunt’s comment at the time. But as I started to travel more while studying abroad, again and again I found myself drawn back to that first visit to Europe. There’s just something about Paris. Some people don’t have that same attraction to the language, to the food, to the color of the Seine on a crisp day in October. But for those who do, Paris takes hold, and for good reason. Here are a few.

1) Enjoying the Seine.

The Paris river divides the city into two distinct parts—the left and right bank. But it also links the city’s integral parts. People often take cruises around the city—night or day, using the Seine to get to know the city. Then, across the many bridges, people lock their love into place by decorating their own lock and tossing the key into the river. Other people just want to take in the air or the view, and seat themselves in front of the river with wine and cheese. The Seine is the perfect location to breathe in Parisian air.

2) Paying respect to the museums.

With so many artists living in or having lived in Paris, it makes sense that the city is one of—if not the—few, true artistic capitals of the world. The Louvre in itself is unparalleled. The Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo must be visited. Then it’s off to Musée d’Orsay for Monet, Renoir, Degas, Seurat and some of the best impressionism in the world. Still, my personal favorite museum is Musée Rodin. This museum, built inside the sculptor’s home, has a beautiful garden where sculptures like The Thinker and Eve come alive.

3) The dusty shelves.

Not only have painters and sculptors made their mark in Paris, but writers have also made the city their home. Besides Musée Rodin, my other favorite place in Paris is an independent English bookstore called Shakespeare and Company. Located just off the Seine by Île de la Cité and Notre Dame, the 1950s bookstore is jam-packed with potential reads by expatriates like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

4) A different kind of art, called macaroons.

If you don’t have macaroons in Paris, you’re doing something wrong. While you can never go wrong with macaroons in Paris, there are some places that are more popular than others. One of the most famous macaroon houses is called Ladurée, with a few different locations throughout the city. Their menu includes the classics—chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, strawberry, but there are dozens of other interesting flavors to try. The tea and hot chocolate aren’t too bad either. Ladurée fairly recently opened a shop in New York, but it’s obviously not quite the same.

5) Finding your favorite view.

After all the macaroons, it’s time to hit the stairs, and Paris has plenty. The views up the winding staircases to the top of Arc de Triomphe are stunning—the Champs- Élysées in its full glory in one direction, the Eiffel Tower in another. Climbing to the top of Notre Dame is a challenge, but there’s nothing like being up amongst the gargoyles on a clear sky day with the whole city stretching out in front of their carved faces. Paris’s other grand church, the basilica Sacré Coeur also has a spectacular view, and you don’t even have to climb up a narrow, winding staircase to catch a glimpse: the neighborhood in which it is located, Montmartre, is already elevated. Don’t get me wrong, there are stairs—but it’s a view for the less claustrophobic at heart.

6) Bubbles a la Tour.

Of course no trip to Paris is complete without champagne. Or the Eiffel Tower. So why should the two be mutually exclusive? On my most recent trip to Paris, I found out about the champagne at the very top of the Eiffel Tower, and it was the perfect ending to a Parisian fairytale week.

In the end, Paris is not a cheap city; it’s a place to treat yourself, but it’s also a place to take full advantage of, to take that extra walk at midnight down Boulevard Saint Germain, to walk all the way from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe through the Tuileries Gardens, past Plaza de la Concorde, and through the Champs- Élysées, then to sit back and relax in the Jardin du Luxembourg, soaking in the scent, the feel, and the inexact, indescribable color of the Parisian sky at dusk.

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